Democrats on the Senate Rules Committee grilled President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE’s nominee to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the government’s campaign watchdog, on Tuesday, urging him to recuse himself from any matters involving the president.
But Trump’s pick, Trey Trainor, said he would not accept a “blanket recusal” if confirmed.
“My plan is to follow the same recusal regime as every other member of the commission,” Trainor told the committee, adding that he will have a conversation with FEC advisers about the appropriate steps to take if needed to recuse himself from any agency matters involving Trump.
Trainor is a Texas attorney and was an adviser for the president’s 2016 campaign, and if confirmed he would allow the agency, which has long been sidelined with only three of six commissioners, to finally achieve a quorum. But Senate Republicans angered Democrats by moving to advance Trainor’s nomination without a nominee for a Democratic FEC seat.
Trainor on Tuesday faced pressure from the Rules Committee ranking member Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-Minn.), a former 2020 presidential candidate, and other Democrats over how he would handle matters involving Trump and whether he approved of the process that would see a Republican give the FEC board a quorum.
“Abandoning bipartisan norms and pushing forward a controversial nominee is not the way to do it. Moving forward in this way does more harm than good,” Klobuchar said.
She criticized Trainor’s past work, including arguing that people shouldn’t have to disclose political giving, working to support voter ID laws, and his comments that the Supreme Court “got Citizens United right,” in reference to the landmark campaign finance decision.
“I view the role of the FEC first and foremost as giving the American people confidence in our electoral system,” Trainor told the panel.
Highlighting the contentious fight, the hearing brought testimony from both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Health Care: US showing signs of retreat in battle against COVID-19 | Regeneron begins clinical trials of potential coronavirus antibody treatment | CMS warns nursing homes against seizing residents’ stimulus checks Schumer requests briefing with White House coronavirus task force as cases rise Schumer on Trump’s tweet about 75-year-old protester: He ‘should go back to hiding in the bunker’ MORE (D-N.Y.).
McConnell noted that there are two Republican vacancies. But Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallPark Police asked to defend rationale behind clearing protesters The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden on the cusp of formally grasping the Democratic nomination Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez defeats Valerie Plame in New Mexico primary MORE (D-N.M.) mentioned that FEC commissioner vacancies traditionally have been filled two at a time, with one from each party.
“The commission is in need of new ideas and new perspectives,” Trainor said to Udall when asked if he supports pairing his nomination with a Democratic nominee.
Schumer blasted Trainor at the hearing.
“Mr. Trainor has a long career as a conservative political operative,” he said.
He added that the Trump administration has a “habit” of nominating people whose backgrounds don’t fit the mission of the work.
The fight over the agency has heated up in the election year. Former FEC Vice President Matthew Petersen resigned in August and, since then, the agency has been unable to do its job of enforcing campaign laws.
The FEC is responsible for investigations into possible campaign violations, auditing campaign committees and issuing fines for those who break campaign finance law, such as the ban on contributions from foreign nationals.
Trainor sought to convince lawmakers he would be fair in his post.
“If the Senate votes to confirm me to this post, I will approach my work at the FEC in an objective and methodical manner,” Trainor said in his opening statement.
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After his work on the Trump campaign, Trainor was special assistant to former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisMilley discussed resigning from post after Trump photo-op: report Hundreds of West Point alumni call out Esper over military’s role in protests OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill MORE. Before that, he worked at the law firm Ackerman and previously was general counsel to Texas secretary of state.
Trump first nominated Trainor in 2017, but his nomination has lapsed three times. Trump nominated him for a fourth time in 2020.
Updated at 1:47 p.m.